Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Humor and irony in noir

From: William Denton (
Date: 21 Oct 2004

On 21 October 2004, Jacques Debierue wrote:

: True humor (which is indeed redeeming, that is, healthy) is
: incompatible with true noir. If the situation of the doomed noir
: protagonist is made humorous, the reader may not believe in it.
: Lose the accepted doom and noir can easily become ridiculous.

Their can be great humour in the absurd, and there's a good place for that in noir. I laughed out loud a couple of times in TWISTED CITY, by Mr. Starr, at absurd juxtapositions between what the narrator had seen or done and what went on in his regular daily life. This doesn't really count as true humour the way you mean it, I think, but it's still a release.

SPOILER ALERT: Avoid reading further if you want one later event in the book to come as a surprise.

David has picked up a woman in the park and they go get a bite to eat.

| She told me about how she'd grown up in Manhattan, in Stuyvesant Town,
| and gone to Hunter College. When it was my turn to give a personal
| history, I intentionally omitted that my girlfriend had committed
| suicide yesterday.

It may not seem that funny out of context, but really, it's a riot when you're reading the book. The night before, the cops were all over his apartment wondering why his girlfriend was dead. Today, he's out in the fresh air and sun, chatting up a woman as though nothing happened. It's not a joke, but the bizarreness and surprise made me laugh. Noir can cause that "man, can you believe this!?" reaction.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : : Caveat lector.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 21 Oct 2004 EDT